Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Marriage Act and the Campaign for Equality

History was made at midnight on Saturday 29 March when the first same-sex marriages were held across England and Wales. 

To mark the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act coming into effect, an Equal Marriage Fair was held at the Town Hall in Sheffield on Saturday. 

Among other things, the event celebrated the campaign for equality undertaken by Edward Carpenter in the late 19th century.  Born in 1844, Carpenter openly acknowledged his homosexuality.  He lived at Millthorpe, just outside Sheffield with his long-term partner George Merrill.  His radically different lifestyle became a symbol of liberation from the traditional middle class values of Victorian England and his writings were an important contribution to the development of the English socialist movement, and later the gay liberation movement. 

Carpenter’s personal papers and extensive library were bequeathed to Sheffield Libraries upon his death in 1929.  These are now at Sheffield Archives and are consulted by scholars from around the world https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/libraries/archives-and-local-studies/collections/edward-carpenter-collection.html

Pictured (above): Edward Carpenter and George Merrill, (left): display of photographs and documents from Sheffield Archives at the Equal Marriage Fair, 29 March 2014.